A Computational Model for Predicting Nanoparticle Accumulation in Tumor Vasculature

Hermann B. Frieboes, Min Wu, John Lowengrub, Paolo Decuzzi, Vittorio Cristini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Vascular targeting of malignant tissues with systemically injected nanoparticles (NPs) holds promise in molecular imaging and anti-angiogenic therapies. Here, a computational model is presented to predict the development of tumor neovasculature over time and the specific, vascular accumulation of blood-borne NPs. A multidimensional tumor-growth model is integrated with a mesoscale formulation for the NP adhesion to blood vessel walls. The fraction of injected NPs depositing within the diseased vasculature and their spatial distribution is computed as a function of tumor stage, from 0 to day 24 post-tumor inception. As the malignant mass grows in size, average blood flow and shear rates increase within the tumor neovasculature, reaching values comparable with those measured in healthy, pre-existing vessels already at 10 days. The NP vascular affinity, interpreted as the likelihood for a blood-borne NP to firmly adhere to the vessel walls, is a fundamental parameter in this analysis and depends on NP size and ligand density, and vascular receptor expression. For high vascular affinities, NPs tend to accumulate mostly at the inlet tumor vessels leaving the inner and outer vasculature depleted of NPs. For low vascular affinities, NPs distribute quite uniformly intra-tumorally but exhibit low accumulation doses. It is shown that an optimal vascular affinity can be identified providing the proper balance between accumulation dose and uniform spatial distribution of the NPs. This balance depends on the stage of tumor development (vascularity and endothelial receptor expression) and the NP properties (size, ligand density and ligand-receptor molecular affinity). Also, it is demonstrated that for insufficiently developed vascular networks, NPs are transported preferentially through the healthy, pre-existing vessels, thus bypassing the tumor mass. The computational tool described here can effectively select an optimal NP formulation presenting high accumulation doses and uniform spatial intra-tumor distributions as a function of the development stage of the malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere56876
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 28 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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